Saturday, 30 January 2010

Solidarity with Haiti: trade union campaign

In the union movement's best traditions of international solidarity, the TUC has an appeal fund for 'emergency relief and long-term rehabilitation of the victims of the earthquake' in Haiti. There's a TUC Concert for Haiti and I notice Philosophy Football is contributing with a new 'Aidez Haiti' T-shirt, with all proceeds going to the TUC fund (I also recently drew attention to Philosophy Football's Burns Night offering).

In the face of such horrors as witnessed in Haiti, it is easy to feel powerless. Two things are important in response. The first is practical opportunities, however seemingly small, to provide help and solidarity. The other thing is an understanding of why the disaster was so devastating and the politics shaping both the background and current response to it. A number of very illuminating articles explain these issues, including Seumas Milne's insightful piece in The Guardian.

Milne writes: "While last week's earthquake was a natural disaster, the scale of the human catastrophe it has unleashed is man-made. It is uncontested that poverty is the main cause of the horrific death toll: the product of teeming shacks and the absence of health and public infrastructure. But Haiti's poverty is treated as some baffling quirk of history or culture, when in reality it is the direct consequence of a uniquely brutal relationship with the outside world — notably the US, France and Britain — stretching back centuries."

John Pilger and Andy Kershaw both develop these insights in their excellent articles, with Kershaw drawing attention to the dubious media portrayals of Haitians: "Too much energy in the last week has been expended on the fetish about "security". This assumption that there is a security threat has gone completely unchallenged by an army of foreign press, unfamiliar with Haiti and the character of the Haitians. Indeed, TV reporters particularly, having exhausted the televisual possibilities of rubble, have been talking up "security", "unrest" and "violence" when all available evidence would indicate anything but."

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